Opinion: Leiden fraud case shows the university does not adequately capture and correct violations

Opinion: Leiden fraud case shows the university does not adequately capture and correct violations

Student at work at Leiden University.ANP . image

de Volkskrant On March 11th, I reported on a long-running scientific fraud in the Cognitive Psychology Department of Leiden University. Dr. Colzato, the wife of the head of the entire department, forced the doctoral students to do so. What remains unspoken in all languages ​​is the business climate in which the fraud originated and can continue for a long time.

For more than ten years now, boards of engagement (University Council and College Council), secret counsel, and administrators have regularly received signals about abuse of power and intimidating treatment. It is difficult for employee representatives to get these types of cues on the managers agenda, because the cues are about people and not about policies or guidelines, while confidential advisors are not allowed to talk about them due to privacy.


Drivers either ignore signals as “single cases” or do not intervene. Then victims quickly learn that reporting is illogical, or even dangerous, and that failure to report pays off. This creates two parallel worlds: a public world with well-intentioned political will around security, integrity, and transparency and another closed world in which abuses can continue.

Colzato has published over 150 articles with her husband and several Leiden co-authors. The university’s fraud report examines only 53 of them and identifies 15 articles as fraudulent. The titles of these articles are colored black because the university says it wants to protect the co-authors and takes responsibility for pulling out fraudulent works in scholarly journals.


More than a hundred other articles have been pardoned because their details cannot be traced back. The University Council’s decision to anonymize the fraud report harms science, as unreliable publications continue to circulate, and also inadvertently sends the message that there is no point in reporting scientific misconduct.

In general, the issue is primarily about power. The case has a lot of people involved and many losers, including science. The fact that Colzato is named as the sole culprit in this case obscures the real problem: that the university is not adequately picking up on signs of abuse and appropriately correcting them.

Bart van der StenUniversity Library, UL, former member of the University Council.
Just AugustinHuman Sciences UL UR Former Member.
Polytex VenaSocial Sciences, UL, former member of UR.

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